In last week's gospel Jesus taught us to be persistent in prayer.

This week he tells us what kind of attitude we should bring to prayer and

to have in our lives in general. Humilty is what we need. Pride is what

each and every one of us carries in our hearts to one degree or another.

        Aristotle called it one of the virtues. Christianity calls it the

greatest of all vices.

        Nothing distinguishes Christian morality from pagan and humanist

morality more sharply than their opposite attitude toward pride.

        Pride is THE greatest sin. It was the Devil's original sin (perhaps

the only sin possible for a being that's pure spirit), and it was mankind's

original sin - the desire to be like God, over the Law rather than under


        It's the first and greatest sin because it is a violation of the

first and greatest commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me."

Pride puts self before God. Pride loves yourself with all your heart, soul,

mind, and strength rather than God.

        C.S. Lewis wrote about it: "There is one vice of which no man in

the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in

someone else; and of which hardly any people except Christians ever imagine

that they are guilty themselves..... There is no fault which makes a man

more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves.

And the more we have it in ourselves, the more we dislike it others."

        Pride can be boiled down to the two options we have whenever we

have choices to make in this life - THY will be done or MY will be done. We

can call pride the greatest of all sins because it is at the heart of all

other sins; every sin says to God "MY will be done."

        Thomas Aquinas believed that the sin of pride is so harmful to our

relationship with God that God sometimes allows people to fall into sins of

the flesh, things like inordinate attention and focus on food, sex,

alcohol and the like, sins that are less grievous than pride but more

shameful on the surface, so that we can learn the humbleness that comes

from the knowledge that we need someone outside of ourselves to save us

from ourselves. That reliance on someone else, namely God, is the beginning

of humilty. Humilty is the archenemy of pride.

        Jesus begins the Beatitudes, probably our best moral guide, with

these words: " Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of

God." Most people misunderstand Jesus to be talking about poor folks, those

people who lack any kind of material wealth. But what Jesus is talking

about are those people who realize, through a spirit of pure humbleness,

that everything they have, everything they do, and everything they are

comes only from the goodness and graciousness of God. That's what it means

to be poor in spirit. To acknowledge our total reliance on the goodness and

mercy of God. To live in humilty.

        Keep in mind, humilty is thinking less ABOUT yourself, not thinking

less OF yourself. In the same way, pride is not vanity. Though vanity is a

sin, there's a certain humbleness about vanity given the fact that you do

care about what others think of you. Pride is essentially a lust for power.

A need to be in control - of ourselves, our bodies, of our world, of other

people. It lessens our need and desire for God to be in control; God who

created the world from nothing; God who is all powerful.

        When we start going around thinking that we are not in any serious

danger of the sin of pride, that's when we probably are. And if we are even

a little proud of our humilty, then we probably have a long way to go. Some

of the signs that we might need to humble ourselves a little more, that

pride might be infecting our spirit is a luke warm attitude or even a

refusal to be in awe and wonder of the things of God, things like God's

gift of himself in the Eucharist; or holding back when it comes to our

worship here at Mass. Could it be pride that keeps us from giving God all

the praise and thanksgiving that we can muster?

        Pride looks down, humilty makes us look up. Our supreme joy comes

from seeing ourselves less and less and God more and more. God loves us

with an everlasting love. He's infinitely determined to bring us to that

supreme joy, that eternal happiness of seeing him face to face eternally in


        {Socrates, the humblest and wisest of the philosophers, was told by

the Delphic oracle that no one in he world was wiser than he was. What

would you think if someone told you that? "There is no one in the world

wiser than you are."

        Socrates interpreted it to mean that neither he nor any other man

was wise - "God alone is wise" - but that he alone knew that he was not

wise and that this was the only wisdom that he or any other man could have.

In other words, there are only two kinds of people: fools, who think they

are wise and the wise, who know they are fools. In the same way,}

 Jesus' point in today's gospel, is that we could say that there are only

the proud who think they are humble and the humble who know they are proud.

        One of the best ways I know of to express our reliance upon God and

to open ourselves to his grace in humble submission is to avail ourselves

of the Sacrament of Reconcilliation. It's our way of saying, like the tax

collector in today's gospel, "O God, be merciful to me a sinner." Some

people say "Well, I never really sin." Well I was washing my car recently

and I came up with an analogy that I thought was pretty good.

        Some of you may have seen the big, black Chevy Impala I drive

around sometimes. Many people agree that when a black car is all clean and

shined up, there's not many that look better. You can see yourself in the

paint like a mirror. That's kind'a like our souls when we come out of

confession; all shined up and beautiful. Now the thing is, no matter how

hard I try to keep it clean, just driving it on sunny days, avoiding mud

puddles and things like that, every time I go for a ride, it gets just a

little layer of dust on it, just 'cause I took it out into the world. And

even though try to keep it clean, eventually you can tell that it just

doesn't look as good as when I first shined it up. I sort of think our

souls are the same way. Even though we might stay out of the big storms of

the sinful areas of our world, or the mud puddles of life, we still

accumulate the dust of the sin in the world around us. If folks we consider

to be holy like St. Francis, Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul feel the

need for the sacrament of reconciliation, how much more the rest of us?

        Some people ask: "Well can't I just confess to God by myself in my

bedroom at home?" I can give you 5 good reasons why that's not good enough.


1) In going to confession, we are seeking forgiveness the way Christ

intended for it to be sought. Look it up in Scripture.

2) By confessing to a priest, the Catholic learns a lesson in humility,

which is conveniently avoided when one confesses in private prayer. And I

know that personally, that humbling experience helps to keep me on the

straight path a lot longer that trying to "make it right " on my own.

3) The Catholic who goes to confession receives sacramental graces he

wouldn't get otherwise. Not only are sins forgiven, but graces are obtained

that renew our relationship with God.

4) In some ways most important - The Catholic is assured that his sins are

forgiven - he doesn't have to rely on a "subjective" feeling.

5) Lastly, the Catholic can also obtain sound advice on avoiding the sin in

the future. You're not telling these priests anything that they haven't

heard before and they might be able to help you.

        Maybe through regular use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation

we can discover that humility that will open us up to an even greater love

of God and allow us to gain that heavenly reward that Jesus promised us.